Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C
Which cancers are linked to hepatitis B and hepatitis C?
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are viruses that spread very easily through blood and body fluids. Infections with hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus have been linked to an increased risk of liver cancer. People with hepatitis B are 20 times more likely to develop liver cancer compared with people who don’t have hepatitis B.1 People with hepatitis C are 23 times more likely to develop liver cancer.1
About 220 adults were diagnosed with liver cancer in Alberta in 2015.2 Hepatitis B is linked to around 15% of liver cancer cases in Canada and hepatitis C is linked to around 38% of liver cancer cases in Canada.2
How is hepatitis spread?
The hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses can be spread by:
- sharing needles used for injecting drugs with an infected person
- getting a tattoo or piercing with tools that weren’t sterilized
- having sex with an infected person without using a condom
A mother who has hepatitis B can pass it to her baby during delivery. Hepatitis C is sometimes spread this way too.
How does hepatitis increase my risk of cancer?
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C both cause the liver to be inflamed. In some people, the infections don’t clear up and the inflammation lasts for years. When the liver cells are damaged or destroyed, the body has to replace them. When there is a high turnover of cells in the liver, there is a good chance that some of the new cells will lose their ability to stop dividing. In this case, liver cancer sets in.
Tips to reduce your risk of getting hepatitis and the cancers it causes
Grade 6 students can get the hepatitis B vaccine as part of the school immunization program. If you were born in 1981 or later and did not get all the recommended doses in school, you can get the hepatitis B vaccine for free. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.3
All women who are pregnant should see a health care provider before the baby is born. Health care providers in Alberta make sure all pregnant women get tested for hepatitis B. If a woman has the virus, her baby can get shots to help prevent the infection from being passed along.
Other ways to avoid getting hepatitis B and hepatitis C include:
- use a condom when you have sex
- don't share needles
- wear latex or plastic gloves if you have to touch blood
- don't get a tattoo, or make sure that the needles used have been cleaned properly and are sterile
- don't share toothbrushes or razors
Radon is a radioactive gas found in the environment that is produced by the decay of uranium that is found in soil, rocks or water. Radon is found in all buildings in contact with the ground. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radon as a cause of lung cancer.4 Residential radon exposure is linked to about 9% of new lung cancer cases in Alberta.5
More detailed information about radon and how Canadians can reduce their exposure is available through Health Canada’s website.
Other resources to help you learn about radon:
Outdoor Air Pollution
Air pollution is linked to about 6% of new lung cancer cases in Alberta.5 Fine particulate matter can be produced by a number of different sources including traffic, industrial sources and natural sources like forest fires.
More information about sources of air pollution and their relationship to cancer risk can be found on the website of the Canadian Cancer Society.